Games 3/26/08: Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters, Singstar '90s, Buzz! The Hollywood Quiz

Rainbow Six: Vegas 2
For: Xbox 360 and Playstation 3
From: Ubisoft
ESRB Rating: Mature (blood, intense violence, strong language)

“Rainbow Six: Vegas 2” isn’t terribly new, but it is improved. For the legions of gamers who still have the 2006 original spinning in their consoles, that may be news enough.

For those who want a bit more detailed of an explanation, the changes in “R6V2” are modest but almost universally welcome.

Most noticeably, features previously relegated only to multiplayer now appear throughout the game. The campaign’s storyline now centers around a character you design yourself, and you can accumulate experience points — which still lead to better weapons and gear — in the campaign as well as during multiplayer sessions. A new system that rewards skilled kills — headshots, close combat attacks and the like — yields further rewards, and it, too, works across all modes of play.

For those who don’t wish to play alone, “R6V2” takes more steps forward than backward. The campaign now supports only two-player instead of four-player co-op, but the ability for a second player to drop in and out at any point without disrupting the first player’s progress is a nice and necessary concession. Four-player squads still can band together under the arena-style Terrorist Hunt mode, which has expanded admirably both in terms of maps and gameplay customization options.

On the competitive multiplayer front, “R6V2” adds three new objective-centric modes to complement the usual suspects. More importantly, the game allows players to invite friends to join them in ranked as well as unranked matches. That doesn’t fully compensate for the lack of a true party system, a la “Call of Duty 4,” but it’s a step in the right direction.

Elsewhere, it’s pretty much more of the same. Your character’s newfound ability to sprint gives the action a modest shot in the arm, but Ubisoft otherwise doesn’t meddle with the fundamental gameplay that made the first “Vegas” the best first-person tactical shooter on either console. The graphics definitely haven’t improved much, your A.I.-controlled squadmates still aren’t as smart as you wish they were, and occasional framerate drops are the price we pay for the game being in simultaneous development for both platforms.

But none of these issues, while each disappointing in their own right, is enough to detract from how refined the game is in the areas that matter. “R6V2” takes a great game, makes it better, and provides closure to a storyline that needed one. That’s not everything everyone wanted, but for the core audience, that’s more than plenty.


Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters
For: Playstation 2
From: High Impact Games/Sony
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ (animated blood, fantasy violence)

Singstar ’90s
For: Playstation 2
From: Sony
ESRB Rating: Teen (lyrics, sexual themes, use of alcohol and tobacco)

Buzz! The Hollywood Quiz
For: Playstation 2
From: Relentless Software/Sony
ESRB Rating: Teen (crude humor, drug reference, mild language, mild violence, suggestive themes)

While the PS3 brings home the buzz in the Playstation family, Sony’s unsinkable PS2 continues to sell alongside the best of them. Consequently, Sony manages to keep the software coming, even if most of it consists of content packs and port jobs of varying quality.

Among the latest batch of new first-party software, “Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters” easily stands out as the most intriguing. Sadly, it’s also the most disappointing.

“Matters” is the latest example of a Playstation Portable game making the jump to the PS2, and anyone who doesn’t know this going in will be jarred by how inferior the game looks when stacked against the “Ratchet” games that were specifically developed for the PS2. That would be bearable if looks were the only problem, but framerate issues and camera controls that arbitrarily do not work make for a product that feels inexplicably rushed to retail.

Even those who do know the origins of “Matters” are likely to be disappointed. The PSP version’s best feature — a suite of extremely clever online multiplayer modes for up to four players — is now strictly an offline, splitscreen table for two. The essence of the modes remains intact, but it’s a huge step backward from the portable game, which easily remains the definitive version a full year later.

Things are a less unpleasantly surprising elsewhere, with both “Singstar ’90s” and “Buzz! The Hollywood Quiz” essentially serving as expansion packs for those who invested in the “Singstar” microphones or “Buzz” game show buzzer peripherals, respectively.

“Singstar ’90s” (available by itself or bundled with two microphones) does nothing the previous four “Singstar” games didn’t do, so if you’ve played any of those, nothing down to the last pixel should surprise you here. As with previous “Singstar” packs, your interest in “Singstar ’90s” comes down to whether the track listing intrigues you or not. Per usual, there are 30 songs and videos with which to sing along, and a complete track listing is available at Sony’s “Singstar” web site,

“Quiz” (sold alone or with four Buzz controllers) is similarly low on surprises, delivering the same quiz show experience of other “Buzz” games but with a focus this time on movies. The game looks a little better than previous “Buzz” games, and the Oscar-inspired theme gives it a little more visual personality then previous iterations. Most importantly, “Quiz” features 5,000 new questions to answer, so if you enjoy the “Buzz” games but have tired of all they offer, this is a pretty safe way to replenish your stock.